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Legislators tout open access bill as recovery driver

January 9, 2022 | 10:18 pm


Legislators said they expect a bill which they co-authored to improve competition in the digital services industry, helping propel the economy’s recovery, ultimately reducing poverty.

House Bill No. 8910, also known as the Open Access in Data Transmission Act, hopes to promote fair and open competition by lowering barriers to entry for the telecommunications industry, in the process lowering the cost of such services.

“By reducing the costs of internet access, (the bill) greatly reduces the transaction costs of search, transportation, tracking, and verification in conducting economic activity,” Quezon City Rep. Jesus C. Suntay told BusinessWorld in an e-mail.

“For developing countries like ours, it is important to possess a more inclusive digital economy to prevent the widening gap between the rich and the poor by increasing the efficiency of the economy,” he added.

He cited a study from the Inter-American Development Bank which found that investing in technology can democratize access to technology, improving user access to jobs and education.

Parañaque Rep. Joy S. Tambunting said that building better digital infrastructure will help support the development of e-commerce.

“E-commerce contributed 3.4% to GDP (gross domestic product) in 2020,” Ms. Tambunting said. “(It) also has the capacity to alleviate poverty as it allows small and micro businesses to enter the market.”

She noted that more digital awareness would “(better) equip Filipinos to do business.”

Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo cited a 2020 study conducted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific which found that the advantages of better digital infrastructure include “access to wider international markets, improvement and efficiency in operations through digitally-enabled services, reduction of trading costs… and wider access to the financial sector.”

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny T. Pimentel said that in India and parts of sub-Saharan Africa which are largely agricultural, are using digital technology to help lift up their farmers.

Mr. Pimentel said that “those countries’ ministers are encouraging the use of digital infrastructure to promote agribusiness and agricultural development by setting up mobile-based apps for market selling and buying and transport mediation.”

The legislators acknowledged that the spread of COVID-19 has helped speed up the digitalization process and cashless transactions due to the restrictions on movement imposed by the pandemic.

They also noted that the sector lacks established rules, while those that exist are outdated.

Various surveys like a poll conducted by Tech in Asia indicate reveal that the Philippines has some of the slowest and most expensive internet services. — Jaspearl Emerald G. Tan